Will child support arrears be garnished from stimulus payments?

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Q. Will child support arrears be garnished from stimulus payments?
— Behind

A. The IRS has said it will not garnish overdue federal debts such as student loans or back taxes from stimulus payments, but it was not clear about whether other collections would be suspended.

Normally, when one parent is directed to pay child support to the other parent on behalf of a child they have in common, an order is entered by the court.

Within that order, child support is directed to either be paid directly from one party — the payor — to the other — the payee — or to be payable via the appropriate probation department, typically by wage execution, said Kenneth White, a certified matrimonial attorney with Shane and White in Edison.

He said in matters where child support is payable via the appropriate probation department through wage garnishment, the probation department, which is equivalent to the state, is tasked with collecting the child support due. It also has to maintaining an accounting of all child support payments that have been due as well as those received, White said.

“When the amount received is less than the amount due, child support arrears amass and those arrears are immediately reported as an outstanding judgment,” White said. “The probation department has many tools available to secure the collection of child support arrears.”

One of the principal tools available to the probation department to collect child support arrears is to seize tax refunds that would have otherwise been due and owing to the payor.

“As the payments that the government will be sending to many individuals in accordance with the recently passed stimulus package will be forwarded via the IRS in the form similar to tax refunds, it stands to reason that such funds will likely be garnished/seized to satisfy any child support arrears that may be due and owing just as a tax refund would have been,” White said.

But, he said, as these stimulus payments are an anomaly resulting from these unpresented times, there is no way to know for certain whether the Probation Department and/or IRS will be on the same page to assure that child support arrears will be satisfied with such funds.

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This story was originally published on April 9, 2020.

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